Sabah wildlife officers forced to put down pygmy elephant with fractured jaw

The Sabah Wildlife Department veterinary team inspecting Toothie’s condition yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah lost another of its prized wildlife when an eight-year-old Bornean pygmy elephant had to be put to sleep due to a medical condition that made it difficult for it to eat.

Toothie was euthanised at about noon yesterday by a Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) veterinary team. The bull elephant had been suffering from a severe dental condition as a result of a complete fracture of the lower jaw.

Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew said the decision to put the elephant to death humanely was based on ethical and animal welfare factors.

Toothie was previously nursed in captivity for three months at the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, she added.

Liew, who is also Sabah tourism, culture and environment minister, said the cause of the fracture was still being investigated but that they suspected it could have been due to massive blunt force trauma, probably caused by a heavy vehicle.

She said Toothie was rescued from the Sabah Softwood Plantation on March 21. Initially, it was found with an abscess at the lower jaw and was unable to close its mouth.

Malunion of the lower and upper jaw which caused the pygmy elephant severe permanent deformity.

“Toothie was nursed in captivity, in hopes of an improvement in its condition. Unfortunately, it did not improve and the fracture developed a malunion of the jaw, thus causing a permanent deformity such that the animal could only cope with assisted feeding.

“Releasing the animal back to the wild was rejected as an option as it would not have been able to feed and sustain itself. Instead, it would have contributed to a slow, painful death,” Liew said in a statement here today.

She said the SWD spent about RM30,000 on medical care and a special diet for Toothie over the past several months.

She said corrective surgery was not done due to the cost factor, adding that the procedure would not have been able to guarantee success.

On April 10, a team of veterinarians and a human dental specialist, Dr Johnathan Lin Chee Hang, carried out a thorough dental examination and took X-rays of Toothie.

Tests revealed that the elephant was suffering from a “serious complete fracture” of the lower jaw which had caused the dental condition.

Toothie’s death comes in the wake of the death on May 27 of Tam, the nation’s last male Sumatran rhino. It died of old age and multiple organ failure.

Tam, believed to be aged around 35 years, grew sick in April and its health worsened in early May. It had been under the care of wildlife officers at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve until its death.